Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is often known as a political “Mr Nice Guy”.
But now that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is bowing out, Malaysians are set to find out if their deputy leader is also strong enough to succeed Asia’s longest-standing elected leader.
Mr Badawi, 62, was born into a prominent family in the northern state of Penang.
Abdullah has a tough act to follow His father was a founding member of Umno, which sealed Malaysia’s independence from colonial power Britain and is still the country’s ruling party.
After a degree in Islamic studies and a period working in the civil service, Mr Badawi entered politics upon his father’s death, being elected to parliament in 1978 as member for the Kepala Batas constituency in Penang.
He quickly rose to prominence, holding the jobs of minister of education and defence, before being appointed foreign minister in 1991.
In 1999 he was made deputy prime minister after his predecessor, Anwar Ibrahim, was sacked and jailed for 15 years on corruption and sodomy charges which many observers saw as politically inspired.
Perhaps realising the precariousness of the deputy prime minister’s position – Mr Badawi is the fourth person to hold the post under Dr Mahathir – he has taken care to limit his profile and measure his words.
Significantly, he was one of the first people to rush to Dr Mahathir’s side when he made his shock resignation, keen not to be seen to encouraging the transfer of power.
But analysts doubt Mr Badawi will be able to remain a moderate “gentleman”, as he is popularly seen, once he becomes prime minister.
As Dr Mahathir’s chosen successor he has been protected from criticism.
But if Mr Badawi fails to match expectations, he could be quickly challenged for the leadership from inside Umno.
And given the reverence many Malays feel towards Dr Mahathir, Mr Badawi is set to find himself with an extremely hard act to follow.